A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Trusted (Until You #3) by Karrie Roman

Standard

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

This starts three days after the events of the previous book and focuses on Zach, the cult leader’s son, who was rescued during an FBI raid on the compound. He may have had a crush on Ben for helping rescue him, but it’s Ben’s brother Cameron who is helping him now by giving him a place to stay. Since he’s grown up in a cult, he really doesn’t know how to deal with the modern world and needs help navigating his new reality. Also, the legal issues are just beginning as the FBI questions all the cult members in order to get evidence on the men they arrested, including “Father” Piper. Many of the cultists are brainwashed and hate Zach for trying to help save them from being killed.

The fun parts of this book are really all of Zach’s firsts: candy, popcorn, movie theater, plane, ocean–yes, other firsts too. This will appeal to readers who like the hurt/comfort trope. Often, it’s Cameron who seems most hurt by some past event. Having Cameron be the one who is scared, unsure, and flustered by Zach’s advances makes it work for me in a way it wouldn’t if Cameron were the aggressor. It would be difficult to get past the idea that Zach was being taken advantage of. It also helps there’s only an 8 year age difference. I like that Cameron trusts his brother Ben enough to talk about his past: that this book can portray a strong, successful rescue pilot without the toxic masculinity. I liked them both as characters, but I felt Cameron was not as well written as Zach. I wanted them to have their happy ending because that’s what you expect in a romance, but I wasn’t really emotionally invested in it. Both Cameron and Zach fight their own demons, which is as it should be–no one can fix everything for you.

Cameron tries pushing Zach away, but when Cameron’s past has come back to haunt him and Zach is in danger all bets are off. In comparison with book two, the action sequences are contained here. The story really splits nicely into three parts: Zach adjusting to the world while Cameron fights his attraction to Zach, Zach’s rescue, and then the conclusion of Zach dealing with his mother and father. This works well and flows nicely. This book also does a better job of recapping in a way that you could read it as a standalone, but it is really a continuation of book two. In fact, at this point book one is the anomaly except that Lucas and Ryan are funding the adventures.

Lucas, Ryan, Ben, and Ethan have started an investigation firm to help find missing children. Zach wants to work with them to help, so I expect Cameron will too. The next book seems like it’s going to feature Alec finally, the now former FBI agent we met in book two. This series seems like it will go back into the action adventure mode previously established, but it was nice to get a bit of a breather here–there was action, but it was a smaller part of the overall story about two men who want to move on with their lives and leave their bad past behind.

The cover art is by Natasha Snow. The models’ pose with the jacket is a little strange but I like the rest of the cover. The bottom has echos of Zach’s nightmares. With Cameron being a helicopter pilot and Zach wanting to learn, it has the look of them flying off into the sunset together.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published October 29th 2018 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781949909081
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series Until You #3

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Shipped (Until You #1) by Karrie Roman

Standard

  Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

This is book one in a series called Until You. I read Sentinel, the second book, first so I wanted to go back and learn about the other characters. Ryan Lowe is an Aussie actor without a lot of experience, hired to play Sam on a weekly TV show called The Witches’ Hammer, based on a popular book. Lucas Evers is the more experienced actor having been on a previously successful show, hired to play Dominic. They become fast friends but as the show becomes more successful the pressures, especially from fans, mount.

The author does of great job of showing us the different sides of fame. Ryan is from a poor background with an alcoholic father. He doesn’t have a good support system, is increasingly feeling panicked and out of control, and spirals down when on break from filming. His anxiety issues increase throughout the book.

Lucas responds very differently to fame, seeming to thrive. He is married to his best friend Anna. Although, we know this is a convenient arrangement, she is often the voice of reason and so supportive. We’re told Lucas is close to his family, but we don’t get to see it. He is basically supporting his siblings and parents, but when they start to spend more of his money than he is, he finally says something. Then we see the crack in the veneer of family relationships.

A third of the way in, the focus and mood shifts. Ryan has a stalker named Leighton White so studio security and the police get involved. Some of you may be too young to remember the stabbing of Theresa Saldana, or when Rebecca Schaeffer was murdered, but I’m not. I have also lived in Los Angeles and have seen actors get harassed, once for an autograph while in the toilet at a restaurant. I was devastated when Dimebag Darrell got shot. All of the sudden my fun romantic romp got serious. While this is true to life, it took me a moment when used as a plot device to draw Ryan and Lucas closer.

This is told in dual POV, so we see as: each of them pines for the other; get frustrated as they don’t talk; and get dragged along as their mutual attraction (hot, hot, hot) threatens their friendship, their jobs, and their sanity. The author gets us inside their heads and makes us root for them to be together both on and off screen. I really like that they use geekdom and humor to defuse their tensions. By the time they actually get together, it’s handled more maturely than I thought it would be–especially with Ryan’s previous behavior. Although after all the delicious UST, the actual love scenes are just ok for me.

About halfway through, tragedy strikes. There is one heck of a plot twist, and I shouldn’t know what is going to happen, but I do because I read the second book first. Lucas gets nominated for an Oscar for the film he worked on during the season break and his life may be in danger so the studio hires bodyguards from a security company owned by the Krispins. Here is were we meet Ethan and Ben, who will be the MCs of book two. They save Lucas and Ryan from being killed. In the epilogue, we get to see Ryan and Lucas filming on location: out, happy, and in love.

I enjoyed this book and I enjoyed the second book, but my criticism of each is the same: the author only focuses on the two main characters, not fleshing out the secondary characters. Yes, two of them have their own story, but in a book this long, there was plenty of opportunity for us to get to know more about everyone, which would give this way more depth. Still, I enjoyed what was there and would recommend it for an easy read with steamy chemistry.

The cover art by Natasha Snow shows San Francisco where the TV show was filming. The red sky is signaling danger. I am confused over the cover because Ryan is described as Australian, but never Aboriginal nor Black Australian. He is first described as tall, dark, and handsome with dark-brown eyes and later there is a remark about dark skin. Lucas is described as having striking dark skin, shaggy black hair, and green eyes but never identified as African American. Now I am picturing the actors Gary Dourdan (green eyes) or Michael Ealy (although his eyes are blue). We do not get a good enough description of anyone in his family. I never got a sense of either of them as a POC and at this point, I am not sure which model represents which character.

Sales Links:  NineStar PressAmazon
Book Details:
ebook
Published June 18th 2018 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781948608855
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Until You #1

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Sentinel (Until You #2) by Karrie Roman

Standard

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

This is my first book by this author and book two in the series called Until You, but can be read as a standalone. However, I think reading the first book would be best for maximum enjoyment. At the beginning Lucas and Ryan, who are famous from being on a TV show, are giving a press conference to ask for privacy as they take a break from whatever traumatic thing happen to them in the first book. Ethan, their personal bodyguard, is the focus of this book.

Ethan had been living under the radar, but was brought back into the spotlight due to guarding the two stars. There was something about losing his whole family eight years ago due to his brother. Slowly, we get a recap interspersed throughout the book about some sort of trial against his brother who was a serial killer of young girls. None of Ethan’s guilt made sense to me until chapter nine, when we find out Stewart was a cop also. I’m not sure if I would have known that if I read the first book or not. Anyway, the only reasons it matters is that the topic is part of a pivotal scene where Ethan opens up to Ben, and his reluctance to go to the police is more believable. Ben is our other main character. He has been Ethan’s colleague and friend for the last two years, and we know Ben is in love with him. Ben is also friends with Ryan. Lucas and Ryan obviously consider Ethan family.

Ethan has feelings for Ben, who somehow got shot and has been in the hospital. Because he is afraid Ben will be mad that he never trusted him with the truth about his past, Ethan basically quits his job with the agency they work for, takes a new private job as a personal bodyguard to Ryan and Lucas, and disappeared, refusing to visit Ben in the hospital. Ethan knows there is something there between them, but the horrible rejection he faced from family, friends, and colleagues in the past makes him wary of being vulnerable.

Cameron is Ben’s brother, a rescue pilot for the sheriff’s department in the town called Cody, where Ethan’s sister Maggie lives. She finally finds and calls him after eight years because she has cancer and her ex, Peter, took their twin girls Maya and Riley away. She was afraid to go to the police since Peter was raised in a religious cult run by Arnold Piper, who has enough control over the group that a Jonestown scenario is likely. Once the set-up is done, this book is an action adventure with a rescue mission. Things never have a chance to get dull–there is always something happening. While Ethan’s background is in law enforcement, Ben was an army sniper and they lean heavily on his experience to plan the rescue. This gives Ben his chance to show Ethan how good they can be together and Ethan his chance to have the real intimacy he has been craving. The men work out their relationship throughout the mission.

I love that Ben and Ethan do those cute, stupid things that couples do and talk about the stupid things couple talk about. Once Ethan knows Ben loves him, knows Ben won’t leave him, he falls into this relationship. The mission makes Ben have to open up to Ethan about his past in the military and with the government. The ethics here are murky, so if you like your white hats super shiny, this may not be the book for you.

We get a lot of information about the cult and I found one of the lines very apropos of our current political climate: “it was hard to convince people they were living in a shared delusion when they were still essentially living in it.”

A major player is Alec Banner, an FBI agent that served with Ben in the military. No one wants a Waco either, so the author was good at building the tension with the cult, but it was a bit of a letdown that all the actual action here with the compound happens off page. This makes sense though because we stay with Ben and Ethan’s perspective during the faceoff with authorities. Another major player is the cult leader’s son, Zach who helps them to save the children. I would expect a future book with both of these characters. Zach has been raised without any idea about different types of sexuality and seeing Ben and Ethan together is eye opening. I will say the author made me care about the victims of the cult and then we have no idea what happens to them; being rescued and thrown into a world they know nothing about off page.

Yes, Maggie living in the same town as Ben’s brother is a huge coincidence. Yes, the plot is a little over the top. Yes, it was lucky that they had help from former cultists just when they needed it. Yes, they are making out in the woods in the middle of a mission. So what? This is entertaining, cute, hot, and romantic, rather than realistic. Since I didn’t read the first book, Ryan and Lucas are two dimensional to me right now and I don’t know anything about the Krispins (they own the company Ben and Ethan worked for as bodyguards), who it seems will still be involved as the series moves forward. I liked this book, so I will likely go back and read the first book before continuing on in this series.

The cover art is by Natasha Snow. I believe it shows Ben with the wilderness they had to hike through in the background. It seems a little placid for an action adventure.

Book Details:
ebook
Published September 10th 2018 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781949340693
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttps://ninestarpress.com/product/sentinel/
Series Until You :